More than 100 killed in blasts at memorial for top Iranian general Soleimani

Two explosions rocked a memorial event for Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani, killing more than 100 people and injuring at least 140, state media in Iran reported Wednesday.

The first blast struck around 2,300 feet from Soleimani’s grave in the Kerman Martyrs Cemetery in southern Iran, the semi-official news agency ISNA reported. It added that the second explosion was around 2,000 feet away.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for the blasts.

Soleimani, who came from Kerman, the regional capital of a province of the same name, was buried in the cemetery after he was killed by a U.S. drone strike in Iraq’s capital Baghdad in January 2020.

Iranian emergency services arrive at the site where two explosions in quick succession struck a crowd
Iranian emergency services arrive at the site of the explosions.Mehr News via AFP – Getty Images

At the time he was the leader of Iran’s secretive Quds Force, part of the country’s Revolutionary Guard, tasked with protecting and advancing Iran’s interests in countries like Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria as well as the Palestinian territories.

Some Iranian officials were quick to denounce the explosions as “terrorist attacks” but uncertainty surrounded the incident in a country where information is closely controlled by the ruling theocratic regime.

The semi-official Fars news agency reported that three policemen were among the dead.

Rahman Jalali, Kerman’s deputy governor for security, told the state-run IRNA news agency that the explosions had been “carried out by terrorists.” The semi-official Tasnim news agency said the blasts were caused by two explosive-laden suitcases.

Iranians have gathered at the cemetery to commemorate Soleimani each year since his death, which was directed by former President Donald Trump and sparked angry protests in Iran and Iraq with many calling for revenge on the U.S.

Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei
Gen. Qassem Soleimani in 2016.Anadolu Agency / via Getty Images file

It was unclear whether Wednesday’s blasts at the Soleimani memorial in Iran had any relation to the Israel-Hamas war, but they come at a time of heightened tensions across the Middle East.

The explosions follow the killing of Hamas leader Saleh al-Arouri in a reported drone strike in Beirut on Tuesday, a blast that fueled fears of broader regional escalation as Israel and others face-off with Iran-backed groups.

Al-Arouri, the commander of Hamas’ military wing in the West Bank and deputy chairman of the group’s political bureau, was a key figure who had helped repair Hamas’ relations with Iran. He had been in Israel’s crosshairs before the current conflict began.

Hamas and the Lebanese-based militant group Hezbollah laid blame for the strike on Israel. Israeli officials declined to comment.

Israel has a history of hunting down its enemies, including Hamas leaders. It has been engaged in a “shadow war” with Tehran that has involved targeted assassinations and attacks against Iran’s nuclear program, but not mass casualty bombings.

Sunni extremist groups including the Islamic State group have conducted large-scale attacks in the past that killed civilians in Shiite-majority Iran, though not in relatively peaceful Kerman.

This is a developing story, please check back here for updates soon.

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